Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted that President Trump’s tweet telling four Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from but declined to say whether it would be racist to say the same to his wife.
McConnell led Republicans in defending the president, who told Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley to "go back" to the "totally broken and crime infested places" they came from (hint: three of them were born in the US, the other came as a child refugee).
During a press conference Tuesday, CNN reporter Manu Raju asked McConnell whether it would be racist to say the same thing to his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan.
"You're married to an immigrant who's a naturalized U.S. citizen. If someone was to tell her she should go back to her country because of her criticism of federal policy, wouldn't you consider that a racist attack?" Raju asked.
McConnell did not say whether it would be racist, instead listing off his wife’s story and how she came to the US at "age 8, legally, not speaking a word of English."
McConnell said Chao "has realized the American dream, and I think all of us think that this is a process of renewal that’s gone on in this country for a very long time, and it’s good for America and we ought to continue it."
Pressed again on the actual question by Raju, McConnell again declined to respond and instead reiterated his support for “legal immigration.
"As I said, legal immigration has been a fulfilling of the American dream," he said. "The new people who come here have a lot of ambition, a lot of energy, tend to do very well and invigorate our country. My wife’s a good example of that."
McConnell says Trump’s racist tweet isn’t racist:
Trump has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down on his racist tweet since first firing it off. His insistence that his racist rhetoric about four women of color is not racist has been aided by Republican support. The House of Representatives voted to condemn Trump’s racist remarks Tuesday, with just four Republicans joining every Democrat to vote in favor of the resolution. According to a Reuters poll, Trump’s approval among Republicans improved after the racist tweet.
McConnell on Tuesday insisted that Trump “is not a racist.”
“I think the tone of all of this is not good for the country but it’s coming from all different ideological points of view. To single out any segment of this I think is a mistake,” he added.
Federal law says Trump’s words constitute illegal discrimination:
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces laws that bar workplace discrimination, has guidelines specifically pointing to Trump’s remark as a violation of federal discrimination statutes.
“Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct because of nationality are illegal if they are severe or pervasive and create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, interfere with work performance, or negatively affect job opportunities,” the commission’s website says.
“Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ whether made by supervisors or co-workers,” it says.